Truck drivers from several eastern members of the European Union are putting pressure on their governments and Brussels to rein in what they perceive as unfair competition from Ukraine in an escalating trade spat.
Members of the International Road Transport Union from Hungary, Poland, Slovakia, the Czech Republic and Lithuania will send a joint letter to European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen on Monday calling for a review of an agreement that allows traffic liberalization with Ukraine, Tivadar Arvay, chief secretary of MKFE, the largest road transport organization in Hungary and an IRU member, told Bloomberg.
The current deal, which expires in June 2024, “is seriously distorting the market and causing irreversible damage to Hungarian and EU haulers,” he said. Individual members will also send separate letters to their respective governments, according to Arvay. Truckers want the current agreement scrapped or at least not prolonged.
“We ask and urge all decision makers involved to consider termination or significant changes to the current EU-Ukraine arrangement without any delay and thus enable a return to implementation of bilateral agreements of the single EU countries with Ukraine,” the members said in the letter, published on the MKFE website.
The EU allowed Ukrainian carriers to move goods without obtaining permits for an easier and faster flow of shipments following the start of Russia’s invasion. Current tensions are reminiscent of a conflict over grain shipments from Ukraine that led Poland and Hungary to put in place unilateral import bans.
Polish truckers began blocking three crossings with Ukraine on Nov. 6, causing as many as 20,000 vehicles to get stuck on both sides of the border. Seven hours of negotiations between the infrastructure ministries of Ukraine and Poland and the EU on Thursday failed to resolve the issue. Slovak truckers blocked a border crossing with Ukraine on Thursday for an hour in support of their Polish colleagues.
The European Commission said on Thursday that any re-introduction of permits or quotas for road transport from Ukraine isn’t legally possible as it would violate the current agreement between the EU and Kyiv.
Ukraine exports more than 70% of its agricultural produce, with truck transportation critically important for foodstuffs such meat and dairy, according to First Deputy Agriculture Minister Taras Vysotskyi. Ukraine won’t be able to redirect all shipments to other crossings, he said.
“The situation is threatening,” the minister said.